CD reviews: Moya Brennan spins soft, melodic tales


Although she has released several solo discs, Brennan may still be best known as the voice of the group Clannad. "Two Horizons," to be released Tuesday, proves that she is an accomplished artist in her own right.

The disc highlights her talents as a singer and songwriter, with a rich and densely layered production adding warmth to the melodic and atmospheric songs that echo Celtic and pop heritages. A blend of traditional (from fiddle to harp) and rock instrumentation is regularly enhanced by the use of soaring strings, as on the opening "Show Me" and "Bright Star." And over it all rises her distinctive voice, often wrapped in harmonies.

With guest musicians including renowned folk artist Martin Carthy; Robbie McIntosh, who played for Paul McCartney, and Anton Drennan (now with the Corrs), Brennan seamlessly weaves her musical influences into songs that range from the mellow and ambient ("Ancient Town") to percussive and rhythmic ("Sailing Away") and rock-influenced ("Mothers of the Desert").

"Two Horizons," which includes video of the making of the album, is a welcome return by one of popular music's most individual voices.


Davis, who scored the soundtracks for the first two Matrix thrillers, doesn't let his guard down for the trilogy's third installment. He cuts loose with an hour-long original score that's part techno dance beat and part sci-fi sophisticate. It's dark without being dreary - a heavily orchestrated effort with bold and pulsating battle-like rhythms that give it an urban, edgy feel. Yet its power is tempered at times by tenderness.


Smith is a resident of Nashville but insists that she is not a country artist, preferring to be known simply as a singer-songwriter. That's a title that covers many bases - which is precisely what she does in her debut album. The 11 original compositions on "One Moment More" boast lyrics that showcase Smith's passion for hard looks into life events, from joy to anguish. Her sweet, strong voice adds emphasis to what she has to say, set to sparse acoustic and electric instrumentation in some tasty, smooth melodies. Her recording of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" is an unlisted 12th song.


The Faraway Places' debut is a combustible mix of alt-rock, psychedelia, funk, and jam band grooviness that is as trippy as it is poppy. Call it "trip-pop." Over and over again the young cult band out of California whose members include refugees from Papa Fritas, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and even the Boston Philharmonic throws musical curve balls. This is a wondrous and weird work, a melange of influences that provides a little bit of everything without pandering to the lowest common denominator. Any band that can sound like Motown and Floyd on one cut deserves attention.


African rhythms have long been cited as the underpinning of jazz. This jazz, with its requisite swing, has now become an export back to Africa, resulting in a music reformulation carrying strong African undertones over what sounds like 1950s hard bop. It is a pleasing mix. The musicians are drawn from the ranks of jazz performers in South Africa, joined by Andy Narell and Darius Brubeck of the United States, and this disc is an answer to the charge that American jazz has become stale and mired in preserving the past.